newcastle_eagles_568Drew Lasker believes Newcastle’s game against the league leaders on Friday is ‘huge’ as the Eagles look to avoid losing the head-to-head series with Worcester.

The North-East side were beaten 80-71 when the teams met last month and Lasker wants to send out a message by returning to the top of the league with a victory.

“This game is huge, just from the standpoint that the last time we played them, we lost,” he said.

“This makes this turnaround even bigger because of tie-breaker reasons, so we cannot afford to allow them to get the head-to-head. On top of that, we need a signature win this season. We’ve won all the games we’re supposed to win so this would be a nice win to go back to the top of the league.”

It was Will Creekmore who caused the Eagles problems earlier in the season, coming up big with a 16-17 double-double and Lasker feels that his side need to do a better job on the 6’9″ centre without changing their overall approach.

“I think this time around, we need to keep Creekmore off the boards, he got a lot of second chance points throughout the game and that made the difference.”

He added: “We don’t need to change our game-plan. I thought we kind of controlled the game last time. It was just a four minute stretch in the 4th where we went ice cold and they made the last run of the game.”

Newcastle are once again well placed in the league and are currently joined by three other teams in second place, just a win behind the league leaders. It has been one of the most competitive starts to a BBL season with the top of the table heavily packed with teams in the running and Lasker believes it adds to the excitement.

“It’s great for everyone involved and makes it more exciting. I was talking about this the other day and I’ve never seen the league like this before, being so top-heavy. Usually by November-December time, you can tell who the two teams are that are going to be fighting for the league but this year we’ve got five teams in the mix.”

Lasker is now in his ninth season in the BBL and this is his first full season with Newcastle having had a short stint at the back end of the 2010-11 season. He’s spent most of his career with the Plymouth Raiders and had intended to return to Devon before the Eagles swooped in and got their man.

“I was in talks with Plymouth to return and then Newcastle came out of nowhere and kind of surprised me. They reached out to me and the more I talked to them, the easier it became and I liked their direction. They made me feel like I would be an integral part of what they wanted to try to do this season and that was a deciding factor.”

The 6’1″ guard was one of a number of new arrivals, including BBL rookie pairing of Malik Cooke and Scott Martin, who have made a strong start by leading a group of five players all averaging 15+ ppg for the Eagles. With Newcastle heavily armed with offensive options, it leaves Lasker to do all the little things, in an important but under-valued role.

Summarising his duty, he said: “We have so many scorers on our team so I’m being a glue guy. Basically, I just have to be solid. I change from both the 1-2 spots so I just have to slow it down, get the ball in the hands of whoever is hot and help out with the rebounds.

“I think everyone brings something different to the table, that’s why we fit in really well with one another.”

And it’s that togetherness that has made Lasker believe that Newcastle can return to their illustrious trophy-winning ways after finishing last season empty-handed.

“My confidence has grown in the last couple of weeks, since we played Worcester. We had a break, focused on a few little things and now I feel that our chemistry is there. We’ve figured out our right combinations and defensively, everything has just clicked in the last few weeks.”

A BBL Championship is something that has so far eluded Lasker, and he admits that it remains ‘very high’ on his list of goals. It’s now six years since the league veteran tasted success (with Plymouth) and is desperate to add to his collection.

“I’m at the stage in my career where I’m just hungry to win- cups, league tiles, whatever it is. I’ve achieved a lot individually but team-wise, it’s just the Trophy win back in 2007.”

The Texan has racked up over 3,500 points in 231 league games in the BBL and averages a tidy 8.4 points per game this season but that’s not something that Lasker pays attention to anymore. It’s all about winning.

“I don’t care about stats or averages. All I care about is the ‘W’ at the end of the day. It makes it more fun to play basketball when you’re not worrying about stats, it’s less stressful.”

Now turned 31, just how many years does he have left in him?  That’s a question frequently asked every summer he returns home and the answer for now is, as many as physically possible. Lasker hopes he can emulate the likes of Charles Smith and Mike Martin, who are still playing at a high standard in their late thirties.

He said: “As long as my body holds up then I’m gonna keep going. I’m feeling the best I’ve felt in the last three years. The strength and conditioning coach is really good here and I’m feeling strong, athletic and generally fit. I’ll just take it year-by-year.”


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